Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chick Delivery

Chicks through the mail?!?!

People are often surprised to find out that you can mail-order day-old chicks, but there are probably more chicks purchased through the mail than any other way.

Here's how it works. First, choose your hatchery. I recommend using one that's as close as possible, in order to minimize the amount of time the chicks spend in transit. There are many hatcheries to choose from in the US, including several right here in Ohio. I have used several hatcheries over the years, and they all have their plusses and minuses.

Next, peruse the hatchery website. Pick out what you want. You can usually choose either all females (pullets), all males (no eggs for you, but tasty and cheap) or straight run (Males and females, as hatched. You takes your chances). Next, choose your shipping date. Remember that you'll get eggs earlier if you order for February, but the chicks might have a rough time in transit if it's really cold, plus you'll have a harder time keeping them warm and alive once they arrive. If this is your first time brooding chicks, I highly recommend waiting until at least the end of March.

The hatchery will take your pre-order and pack up the babies as soon as they are dry.  The post office SHOULD call you early in the morning when the chicks arrive and will hold them in the post office for you to pick up ASAP. You do NOT want your chicks to go out in the mail car for delivery. I always call the post office on the day the chicks ship to give them a heads up to expect live chicks in the next couple of days.

Once you get to the post office, this is what you'll receive. The babies ship in special cardboard boxes that have pre-punched holes. The hatchery uses those holes to help either keep the chicks warm (don't punch out any holes) or cool (punch out all the holes) depending on the the weather.

Open the box right away and make sure the babies are all doing well. Spending two days in a cardboard box-ride through the US Postal System isn't always easy on a newborn. It does happen that one or two chicks won't make it, and hatcheries often send extra. It doesn't happen very often, however. I've never had a DOA chick, though I've had a couple fail to thrive and die a day or two after they arrive. If that happens, call the hatchery. Most will refund your money for those chicks.

These babies arrived happy and healthy, despite the bitter cold. They may look crowded, but this is completely OK. In fact, they NEED to be this crowded to stay warm during shipment. Most hatcheries have a minimum order of 25 chicks during cold weather for this reason. The chicks don't mind; they are flock animals and would cuddle together in a pile under a Mama Hen anyway. Also don't be concerned that there is no food or water in the shipping container. Chicks do not need food or water for the first three days of life. The chicks retain the yolk of the egg in their abdomens, where it is slowly absorbed as food during those three days. This is natural for them, as a Mama Hen will wait up to three days on her nest before taking her babies searching for food the first time. This makes sure that the babies are a bit stronger, that they're fully dried, and that any late hatchers get a chance before Mama leaves the nest.

OK, your chicks have arrived, now what? That's a large enough topic that it will need to wait until next week. Have chick arriving LIKE RIGHT NOW and need to know NOW? Read this down-and-dirty primer on how to raise baby chicks. Good luck!